OHIO — Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said hospitals continue to be overwhelmed as omicron grasps more Ohioans each day, particularly the unvaccinated.
“COVID-19 is relentless, seeking out those who are not well protected,” Vanderhoff said. On Tuesday, Ohio recorded 584 new hospitalizations alone, far above the 21-day average, according to Vanderhoff.
Vanderhoff said those hospitalizations are largely those who are unvaccinated and added they could have been prevented.
“Are you willing to take that risk or even reason why a love one takes that risk? Please, get vaccinated. If it’s time, get your booster,” Vanderhoff pleaded. “Our hospitals need our help now.”
Hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, especially in the northern part of the state. Vanderhoff said the state has already initiatied a two-part plan to help alleviate the stress on those facilities. Last week, Ohio activated 1,050 Ohio National Guard members who were deployed to these hard-hit hospitals:
- Mercy Health St. Elizabeth Hospital in Mahoning County
- Mercy Health St. Joseph Hospital in Trumbull County
- Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Center in Summit County
- Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital in Stark County
- Summa Akron City Hospital in Summit County
- ProMedica Toledo Hospital in Lucas County
- Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Lucas County
The second part of the plan is to bring in health care workers who are available from out of state to help Ohio hospitals. Vanderhoff said they will place health care workers and National Guard members where they are needed most and will continue to assess the need as the pandemic persists.
But Vanderhoff said the easiest way to curb hospitalizations and severe cases of the illness is to get the vaccine, reminding Ohioans that the shot will prevent extreme symptoms and hospitalizations.
Vanderhoff also called attention to the hostility hospitals may be seeing from loved ones or people seeking out tests before the holiday season. While many places are running out, he reminded Ohioans that kits are available at pharmacies, local health departments or even urgent care centers. Hospitals are also urging the public not to go to the emergency department for tests, as they are already overwhelmed trying to help patients in their waiting rooms.
Dr. David Custodio, president of the Summa Health System Akron Campus. added to Vanderhoff’s statements, saying there’s been an increase in hostility from family members “as we’re working to save their lives.”
“I’m begging, on behalf of all health care workers, that you do what you need to do to protect all of us,” Custodio said.
When Vanderhoff was asked if officials plan to implement any new health orders to help stop the spread, he said they’re going to “remind and encourage” people to use the tools available, such as the vaccine, masking and social distancing.
This wave of COVID is unlike what Ohio health officials have seen before, stressing the importance of vaccines in press conferences Tuesday across Ohio’s largest cities. On Tuesday, the state documented 12,505 cases — a record for cases reported within a 24-hour time period. The previous high was 11,885 new cases reported on Nov. 23, 2020.
The wave is primarily driven by the emergence of the omicron variant, Ohio health officials said, after it quickly dominated all other strains of COVID in the U.S.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, around 3,000 COVID-19 tests are conducted each day, and one-third of them are positive. Half of them are omicron cases. The strain was determined as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26, and it now accounts for 73% of all positive COVID cases in the U.S., according to federal data.
Health officials both in Ohio and at a federal level are warning that a majority of the hospitalizations are among those who are not vaccinated. In Ohio alone, around 90% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, according to Gov. Mike DeWine.
“The unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices,” President Joe Biden said in a press conference Tuesday, but noted that those choices have been “fueled” by misinformation circulating on social media and cable television.
Though the omicron variant continues to spread, where it was first reported to the WHO — but was not the place of origin — cases are starting to go down. In South Africa, after hitting a high of nearly 27,000 new cases nationwide on Thursday, the numbers dropped to about 15,424 on Tuesday.